It's been a stressful day at work, and changing into my bike gear in the over-warm changing room, I try to ignore the tiredness in my body and hope that it will be forgotten as soon as I get in the saddle.
Outside, it has been dark for an hour or more already (blimmin' English Autumn, innit?), and the first drops of rain hit me as I unlock my bike. My heart sinks a little - this doesn't feel like the usual gentle shower - as I wheel my trusty bike out of the courtyard, the gate clanging shut behind me. I heave an inward sigh as I realise my front light, whose plastic face went missing a few days ago, has completely fallen off without me realising. Great. Now I'll have to ride home through the city in the rain and dark, with no front light.
As I pull out onto the road, the rain gets heavier. I grit my teeth and carry on, wiping my glasses at the red lights, waiting patiently for my body to warm up a bit. It doesn't take too long. By the time I have crossed Southwark Bridge, standing up to pedal the slight incline, I am feeling warmer despite the cold raindrops.
The rain gets heavier, big splatters hitting me and obscuring my vision. I can feel my face taking on an expression of grim determination; forehead down, mouth set, eyes narrowed.
I pedal on.
As I cycle towards Old Street, I notice that the rain is really getting quite insistent. In fact, I can feel the individual drops hitting the front of my arms and tops of my thighs, and my face stings from the assault. It feels exceptionally cold; almost like tiny bullets of ice hitting my face as I rush through the dark streets. Probably because it is ice. It's hailing. Lightening flashes overhead as I dodge people hiding under umbrellas, rushing to make it to the nearest bar, the nearest respite, not watching where they're going.
My face, the only exposed part of me, is really stinging now, but I am determined to make it home and the hailstorm only spurs me on. There are chunks of ice caught in the folds of my gloves. I feel surprisingly cheerful.
I pedal on, taking stock as the hail finally lets up and the rain takes over once more.
I am completely soaked. Water runs down the underside of my arms and fills up my gloves. My tracksuit pants are getting heavier and heavier, dragging at my legs. My shoes are filling up. Water runs down my face and funnels into the corners of my eyes, as I try to blink away the remnants of mascara that are making them sting. I can barely see; luckily the road is fairly quiet. Now my underpants are starting to fill up with water. I take a moment to consider this novel (and rather disturbing) sensation, and pedal on. Not far now.
Riding the last stretch towards home, I don't bother avoiding the (now massive) puddles. What's the point? I can't get any wetter. I keep this thought in mind as I put my bike away and stand at the front door in the rain, pulling my gloves off and struggling to open three sets of locks.
Finally, I am inside. I stand dripping in the hall, feeling like I should somehow record this moment, having survived the rather epic journey home. Instead, I pull off my sopping wet clothes and jump into the shower, marvelling at my bright pink arms and thighs which look as though they have been dunked in boiling water.
My mood has lightened considerably. But I wouldn't want to do this every night.